Spool of olive green thread on top of knit fabric with a brown floral design on an olive green background. Photo by Mary Warner, February 11, 2024.
art challenge fiber art observations

A Little Color-Matching Test

When I was earning my BFA degree for visual arts, one of the required classes was on color theory. It makes sense seeing as how so much of art depends on how colors interact with each other.

During the class, the professor, Merle Sykora, who also happened to be my weaving professor, gave us an interesting color challenge.

He provided each of us with 2 index cards. We were to combine two colors of gouache to create a new color, painting a splotch of the new color on each card. On one of the cards, we had to write the two colors we had combined.

Merle collected all the cards from us. He kept the cards that had the paint colors written on them and distributed the other cards to students in the class. All of us were to try to reproduce the color splotches we were given.

When Merle looked at the colors I had combined to create a dark purple splotch, he looked at me from his perch in front of the room and said, “I didn’t know you had it in you.” You see, I had combined two colors that would not obviously make purple. Heh, heh, heh! (Don’t ask me what those 2 colors were now, but I was pretty pleased that he recognized my devilishness on the assignment.)

With this assignment, Merle was trying to get us to carefully analyze the underlying colors within colors. For example, blacks can have a blue undertone or a brown undertone. Reds can be orange-red or blue-red. And so on.

This is a skill I continue to use decades after college, particularly with fiber arts projects.

Whenever I pick a fabric for a project and need to select thread, I make a little color-matching test of this skill.

Rather than holding the fabric up to various spools of thread to find one that matches, I take a close look at the fabric to analyze the color, then I look over at the thread and attempt to pick the right spool color on the very first try.

Here is the result of my most recent test. The thread is the first one I picked after looking at the fabric.

Spool of olive green thread on top of knit fabric with a brown floral design on an olive green background. Photo by Mary Warner, February 11, 2024.
Spool of olive green thread on top of knit fabric with a brown floral design on an olive green background. Photo by Mary Warner, February 11, 2024.

Sometimes I even try to select thread by memory, looking at a piece of fabric at home, then going to the store to pick the thread without remembering to bring a swatch with to double-check my guess. I’m not too bad at this, though it’s definitely better to bring a swatch with to prevent unnecessarily purchasing the wrong thread. 😉

Do you have any little tests you conduct in order to see if you are maintaining a skill? If so, please share in the comments.

Thoughtful comments welcome.